Ennis (0-0) at University (0-0)
7:30 p.m., Friday, at Waco ISD Stadium
Ennis has averaged 10 wins a season for the 13-year period head coach Sam Harrell (130-39) has been at the helm of the vaunted football program. Last year the Lions were off a bit with a 7-4 record and a first round playoff loss to Brownwood.
Ennis will be looking for southpaw Chris Lewis to take the reins at quarterback of the legendary Lion spread offense. Lee King returns at running back, but Kendrick Wafford will see quality playing time in the backfield as well. Harrell is looking for the receiving corps of Cortney Brooks, Kyle Guinyard, Michael Guinyard, Lamarjrick Malone and Jeremy Smith to step quickly into the offensive mix. Andy Laza and Randall Tarrant may figure into the receiving set as well. The offensive line will need to gel early as well with Will Farmer, Micah Kemp, Josh Melton, Kory Bragg, Bronson Prachyl, Sam Chmelar and Carlos Valles all looking for playing time.
Defensively the Lions are looking for Jose Sanches, LaQuardia Williams, Rob Boyd and Justin Piper to man the trenches. At Linebacker will be King, Laza, Reagan Walker and Jayvon King. Matt Howerton lines up at strong safety with Jason Vavra at free safety. The corners will man up with Deonte McDade, Ivan Solis and Tarrant.
University Trojans are an unfortunate member of District 16-4A, arguably the best in the state last season with Copperas Cove, Waco, Brownwood, Killeen and Midway. The Trojans finished the season 1-9 and 0-5 in district play. While Ennis and University did not play each other last year, Ennis did lose to Midway, Waco and Brownwood — all members of 16-4A.
The Trojans have some experience back this season, but their strength will lie in their quickness. Running backs Marquis Hughes (5-8, 180, 4.5) and Rondell Smith (5-9, 180, 4.4) are very fast. Receivers Marcus Young (5-10, 175, 4.5) and Antonio Neal (6-3, 205, 4.6) are big play receivers and are getting a lot of looks from D-1 coaches. Quarterback Randy Price is back after a completing 91 of 142, for 1,309 yards and six touchdowns season last year.
The Trojans have enough to make the Lions play well if Ennis expects to open the season with a win.
Denton Guyer (0-0) at Red Oak (0-0)
7:30 p.m., Friday, Billy Goodloe Stadium
Mike Shields has a big job to do in building Red Oak into a consistent winner, but his tenure as head coach should get off to a winning note when Red Oak hosts Denton Guyer, a second-year school, on Friday.
Last year, the Hawks snapped their 23-game losing streak with a 35-0 win over Guyer. The Wildcats went winless last year in a tough district that includes four schools either ranked or received votes for the AP’s preseason rankings.
Red Oak will rely heavily on running back Nick Boyd, who averaged nearly 7.5 yards per carry last year as a sophomore. With most of last year’s offensive line back and the Hawks transitioning to a new quarterback, Boyd could get a lot of carries early on this season.
Guyer returns nine offensive starters, including quarterback Jake Witt, who threw for 1,175 yards and eight touchdowns last year. He is also the team’s top returning rusher with 649 rushing yards. Defensive lineman Spencer Wilson will be counted on to shut down the speedy Boyd after tallying a team-leading 87 tackles last season.
Birdville (0-0) at Alvarado (0-0)
7:30 p.m., Friday, Charles Head Stadium
Ty Raby is back for his third season as the quarterback of the Indian attack. The quiet senior has a big statement to make after taking his team to the playoffs as a sophomore and then losing out in the playoff run last year with a 4-6 season.
Despite returning only eight starters, head coach Jeff Dixon and Ty Raby want a return to postseason play.
Lack of depth will be a key issue to go along with lack of experience for the Indians.
Alvarado will look to sophomore tailback Broam Hart (5-11, 175, 4.6) to take the ball and move down the field behind Chris Noles, Nathan Law, R.J. King, Ken Winkle and Cody Browder on the line this season. Raby will throw to Kyle Kirkland and Chad Cantrell.
The strength of the Indian defense will be at linebacker where Thomas Head, Brent Hackler and Darrail McDaniel return. Travis Ferguson will anchor the D-line. Free safety Kory Calk will spearhead the secondary. Birdville beat Alvarado in the season opener last year 39-34 and then went on to post a 9-2 season, finishing second in District 6-4A to Keller Fossil Ridge. The Hawks return an even dozen starters and expect to make another run at the playoffs.
Birdville must replenish an offensive line and many skill positions though. Tommy Dorman, ranked as high as the No. 2 quarterback in the state and who has already committed to Texas A&M, is back to run the Hawk offense. He threw for 2,225 yards and 26 touchdowns last season. Receiver Cory Hines is only a sophomore but is expected to turn in huge numbers this season.
The Hawks return seven starters on the defensive side of the ball. Led by linebacker Daniel Cortez the Hawks expect to hold opponents to less than 14 points a game this year.
Avalon (0-0) at Oglesby (0-0)
7:30 p.m., Friday, Tiger Field
Avalon began varsity play last season with a 67-20 win over Oglesby and then worked to a final record of 6-4, narrowly missing a playoff berth in their first ever season. But, all-state quarterback John DeLaGarza has moved on to play college ball. Sophomore running back Jeremy Knight will make the transition to quarterback to lead head coach Cody Davis offense. All is not lost as the Eagles expect Andrew Romero, District 11 Newcomer of the Year and all-region receiver last year, to put up incredible numbers and take the team all the way to the playoffs. Junior running back Andrew Escobar is counted on to put up impressive stats as well.
Defensively Avalon will rely on senior Moses Gaytan to lead the way.
Oglesby, winless last year in 10 outings, returns three starters on each side of the ball. Even so, the Tigers are still a very young team and they will be playing in a new system. The Tigers are still a year or two away from respectability. Players to watch are Ray Furnace at linebacker, Joshua Aycock at running back and Costin Thurmond at linebacker.
Milford (0-0) at Cranfills (0-0)
7:30 p.m., Friday, Lion Field
Milford is loaded this year with five starters returning on each side of the ball. The offense was very good last season and will be even better this year. Sophomore Adrian Pendleton, all-region last season, plays quarterback as well as Malcom Wadley. Wadley, all-state last year, is also a running back and receiver. Add Derek Williamson, all-state last year, at running back and it is an explosive backfield that will give opponents nightmares. Avery Love, another all-region player, lines up at receiver. Doug Moore provides very good skills at the other receiver position as the Bulldogs can hurt you from anywhere on the field.
Defensively, the Bulldogs are formidable. Talent is laden at every position. Ruben Garza and Doug Moore line up on the line with Wadley and Blue Meyers on the outside. Deckard and Pendleton are the linebackers.
All this adds up to a repeat as district champion and hopefully a trip very deep into the playoffs.
Cranfills Gap is a long way from being a good football team. They began last season with a 40 point loss to Milford and will probably start that way this year. Coming off an 0-10 season the Lions need a lot of help and got some from move-in Bryan Sanders over from Clifton. But there is a gap at the other skill positions as the Lions look for a receiving corps and a signal caller. Defensively Cranfills Gap has three returning starters including ends Casey Raine and Justin Graham. A severe lack of speed cannot be overcome in six man football.
Palmer (0-0) at Hubbard (0-0)
7:30 p.m. Friday at Jaguar Field
Palmer begins its 2007 campaign with lofty goals that did not appear attainable at this time last year.
The first step toward achieving those goals is Friday when the Bulldogs open their season at Hubbard. “We want to make sure everybody’s getting into the system and knows what is going on,” head coach Brian Garrison said of the team’s objectives for Friday’s season opener. “We also want to come out of it healthy.”
Palmer got its season off to a good start last year with a 21-20 win over Hubbard in Garrison’s first game as the Bulldogs’ head coach.
Garrison said the Jaguars don’t have the numbers they have had in the past, but still expects Hubbard to be ready for Friday.
“They’ve got some good athletes,” he said. “Offensively they run a lot of misdirection and defensively, they run the same front we have seen the last two weeks in scrimmages.”
Palmer’s defense, allowed more than 21 points just twice last year, has several starters back and should have the speed to limit Hubbard’s athletic skill position players. The defense is led by defensive end Wayne Kemp and safety Jordan Spurgeon.
“We want our defense to run to the ball and hit the guy with it,” Garrison said. “Ultimately, just be physical and swarm to the ball.”
Although winning last year’s first game against Hubbard did not result in a postseason berth for the Bulldogs, Garrison wants to use Friday’s game as a catalyst.
“You always want to win your first game, your first district game and your first playoff game,” he said. “Hopefully a win this week will help boost us into the right direction.”
Ferris (0-0) at Princeton (0-0)
7:30 p.m., Friday, Panther Field
Ferris finally gets a chance to put its new offense to a real test as Ferris travels to Princeton for head coach Randy Barnes’ first game as a Yellowjacket.
“Ferris is excited for several reasons,” Barnes said. “We’ve got a new school, new turf, new coach and we have 94 kids playing football. There are a lot of good things going on around here right now.”
Barnes’ triple option offense will feature quarterback Matthew Garcia, running back Payden Bertrand and running back Martin Mendez, all of which offer a different style.
The Yellowjackets are excited about the offense’s capability. Bertrand, at 6-0, 242 pounds has the ability to run over defenders while Mendez, brings a speedy, elusive element into Ferris’ running game.
Princeton’s hopes for containing the new offense will be on the shoulders of linebackers Derek Fort and Stephen Young. Both are at least 6-0, and 200 pounds with speed.
The Panthers return six starters on each side of the ball, but their offense should benefit greatly from a returning quarterback and running back.
Quarterback Glen Adams threw for 1,175 yards and five touchdowns last year, but also threw 11 interceptions. His favorite target could end up being Fort, who is also a tight end.
Ferris will counter the Panthers’ offensive skill people with a young defense that includes linebackers Trey Moore and Jeremy Masterson. Masterson, only a sophomore, is 6-4 and should be able to disrupt Princeton’s running and short passing game.
Hearne (0-0) at Italy (0-0)
7:30 p.m. Friday at Gladiator Field
Second-year head coach Buddy Griffin has been waiting a long time for this season to begin.
After arriving on campus just a month before the season last year, Griffin and the Gladiators struggled to an 0-10 season, but now that the team has been through an off-season with him expectations are back to where Italy fans expect them.
“We want to build some success early and get some confidence,” head coach Buddy Griffin said. “We feel confident about our kids and they are confident in themselves.”
With 16 starters back, Italy believes it can challenge for a playoff berth, but before district starts, the Gladiators have four non-district games in which they would like to return the favor after losing each of them last year.
The Gladiators will have their hands full Friday when they host Hearne, a team that went three rounds deep in the playoffs last year and returns six starters on each side of the ball.
“It will be a great challenge for us,” Griffin said of Hearne. “We’ve come a long way in our off-season and if we could get our first win against a team like Hearne, that would solidify all the things we’ve been working on.”
Hearne is led by junior running back Alonzo Gurode, who rushed for 650 yards and six touchdowns last year. He will be helped by an offensive line that returns two all-district players in William Moten and Cameron Rosprim.
The Eagles’ tight end Forrest Rucker is 6-6 and is listed as the second fastest player on the team.
Italy will look to its running back duo of Detrick Green and Dontavious Clemons to help keep up with the high-flying Eagles.
Italy should get a good idea of what kind of defense it will have in this early-season test.